On the surface Mike Gayle’s Turning Forty has nothing in common with the Stephen King book I wrote about in my previous post. But to me, both bring up the idea of alternative time lines.
In King’s novel the protagonist travels back in time and creates alternative future outcomes by changing what happens to individuals in the past.
With Gayle’s books I always find myself facing the alternative lives I could have lived, if only I had made one or two different choices when I had the opportunity.
Gayle’s characters don’t face the extreme experiences of King’s protagonists. They are more or less everyday people going through things that aren’t uncommon, struggling with career and relationships. In part I envy his characters and their long-standing friendships, but I don’t envy the complications that arise when those friendships are tested and sometimes break.
Turning Forty is a sequel to Gayle’s earlier book Turning Thirty. I read the earlier book a few years ago but couldn’t recall the characters or their younger lives. Having read all of Gayle’s books I find it hard to remember who belongs to which story.
Each of his books follows a similar path through part of the life of a main character who spends a lot of time with friends of both genders, usually struggling to find love, and trying to determine where the line between love and friendship should be drawn. While the paths may be similar, the destinations can be significantly different and the reader can never be too sure of where the characters will find themselves at the end of each book.
The similarities in his stories give me the impression that Gayle is sharing insights into separate parts and different inhabitants of a single community. And it seems to be a community he knows well. His non-fiction book The To Do List shows how his own life has similarities to the lives of the characters in his fiction.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been close to having the multiple friendships depicted by Gayle. Maybe those relationships only come through growing up alongside others through childhood and school years, a period of life before adulthood teaches us to be more guarded. I’ve probably had too many relocations and associated disruptions to develop and maintain the kind of friendships that Gayle depicts. If only I’d chosen a less mobile course I might have experienced friendships differently.
(for more that I’ve written about Mike Gayle see here: http://out-shadows.blogspot.co.nz/2010/12/mike-gayle-and-friends.html )